Monday, March 4, 2013

Oven Baked Parmesan Panko Crusted Chicken


Mothers are all slightly insane. 
– J.D. Salinger 

I remember when another mother of small children – this was quite a number of years ago when my babies were small – made the statement to a roomful of like souls “I’ll bet we all give our children the white meat pieces of chicken because there are no bones.” As if the offering of the white meat to our darling and fragile children was a prodigious sacrifice of the motherly kind. As if white meat was better than dark, more flavorful and succulent, and thus the most desired, that self-denial a sign of motherly worthiness simply out of concern for our offspring. And all of the other mothers smiled angelically and nodded their haloed heads in unison. I chuckled and, smiling serenely, shook my head. “No,” I admitted boldly, no sign of shame on my face, no waver of apology in my words, “I give my children the white meat because I prefer the dark myself.
For shame! Well, I could have knocked each and every mother over with a feather. Yet, did I spy the hint of bluster and subterfuge on more than one face in that room? Did I dare voice what others were thinking? Did the tarnish on a halo or two dull the otherwise brilliant surface and blinding glare? Naw, I often believed that I was the bad mother, the worst of them all, kind of like a female Harvey Keitel, a curmudgeonly wastrel in mom’s clothing. And nothing reflected that more than my saving the dark meat for myself.

There’s a lot more to being a woman than being a mother, 
but there’s a hell of a lot more to being a mother than most people suspect. 
– Roseanne Barr 

Was I a bad mother? Selfish and self-indulgent? Happily, my sons have always preferred white meat, so no damage was done; they did gobble it up and asked for more. Bring home a roasted bird, sizzling, golden, fragrant, from the market a Sunday morning and, plates held high, each clamors for a slice of white meat, leaving two moist, tasty thighs for mother. When purchasing poultry from my trusty Chicken Man at the market, spiffy in his formal black and red chef’s coat, his chicest of eyewear perched atop his handsome nose, I point to the Noir, the juiciest, most flavorful of what he sells, and order deux cuisses, 2 thigh/leg sections, and trois filets, breast meat for 3, thank you very much. And happy are we all.

But which came first, the chicken or the egg? The preference for white meat or the forcing upon thereof? I shrug my shoulders and say it doesn’t matter at all, for the tiny ones all grown up desire nothing more than a slice of the breast meat. Nothing Freudian in sight. One, my own little Jack Sprat, has a horror of bones and fat, so the white suits him perfectly. The other wants no trouble and is just happy that the meal is home cooked and something warm and scrumptious is on the table, nary a thing between fork and mouth. The third has simply always desired the white, a Breast Man if you will, and who am I to complain?

A mother’s job is a difficult one. It is a life of sacrifice, worry and guilt-ridden woe. We battle the growing pains and adolescent rebellion of the children, their accusations and their disdain. We experience the high of the fleeting expressions of their love, their successes big and small. We call them to the table at mealtime and place a dish before them hoping and praying that they will smile and, amid the groans of pleasure and hurrahs of delight, simply begin to fork it into their mouths hungrily. And so I make sure that there is white meat aplenty, enough to go around. No catlike choking on tiny bones to mar a beautiful meal.

The poultry, which may perhaps be considered to have formed the staple of the entertainment – for there was a turkey at the top, a pair of ducks at the bottom, and two fowls in the middle – disappeared as rapidly as if every bird had had the use of its wings, and had flown in desperation down a human throat. 
– Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit 

This is a scrumptious dish, one I have been making for a few years and have adapted over time. Chicken pieces of your choice marinated in a heady blend of buttermilk, mustard, lemon juice, herbs and spices then rolled in panko, loads of Parmesan cheese – my sons’ favorite – and a panoply of flavorings. And baked. No frying to muss my lovely new stovetop, no frying to weigh heavily on tummy or backside. Just heavenly flavor and crunch, moist, tender bird no matter the hue and a wallop of flavor. Yes, I recently wrote of my dark days, the murky shadows that live inside of me. But a day spent cooking for my family takes my mind off the worries and sadness, brightens the winter dreariness outside and makes us all happy. This dish is truly a winner.


Serves 6

Chicken pieces for 6 (3 breast filets and 3 leg/thigh pieces, or as desired), skin removed, chicken trimmed and cleaned

1 ½ cup (375 ml) buttermilk
3 Tbs prepared Dijon mustard
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper

1 ½ cups (80 g) panko crumbs
¾ cup (60 g) freshly and finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
6 Tbs (60 g) flour
1 Tbs minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp dried mint, optional
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper
½ tsp or more McCormick garlic & onion medley or similar
Salt and black pepper

Prepare the marinade and marinate the chicken:

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a bowl or baking dish just large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces comfortably in one layer. Push the chicken pieces into the marinade, cover the bowl or dish with plastic and refrigerate from a few hours to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and lightly grease (with vegetable or olive oil) or spray a baking dish or baking tray large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces in one layer – you can also place them on a rack sitting on/in a baking tray. I also tossed a pound or so of grenaille fingerling potatoes on olive oil, salt and pepper and added them to the baking tray.

Toss all of the breading/crust ingredients in a wide bowl or pan. Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator. Lift out one piece of chicken at a time and allow the excess marinade to run off; roll and press the chicken in the breading, coating all sides, and place on the lightly oiled baking tray. Continue with all of the chicken.

Bake the chicken (and potatoes) in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through. Once the chicken is cooked, if you like the breading more browned, just turn on the grill setting of your oven and, watching very carefully, allow to brown just for a few minutes.

Serve immediately with potatoes and a green vegetable or salad if you can get them to eat it.


ilva said...

Equal love here, love your written piece and love your cooked piece. If I only could find pankp here, I would make it this week!

Jamie said...

@ilva: Thanks, honey! I like panko better than traditional "chapelure" or fine breadcrumbs because of the crunch. But just grind your own stale bread, not too fine and it will be just as delicious!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A fabulous chicken dish and story! I also prefer the dark meat as it is moister, tastier and more tender than the white meat.



Amanda said...

I think there is a huge amount of fibbing that goes on among mothers. I always felt that I must have been doing it wrong as my family weren't as seemingly perfect as everyone else's. My kids got cranky, squabbled and misbehaved. I was unable to buy into the whole "martyr" role as a mother and sometimes would do wickedly selfish things like put the children in front of the tv so I could finish a book. I could never manage to appear at the school drop-off looking perfectly made-up, dressed and coiffed at 9 in the morning and my house never, ever looked as though it could feature in a magazine. Of course, now I realise it's often a game of one-up-man-ship among women as they try to out-perfect each other - knocking themselves out in the process.
My kids also prefer white chicken meat and they'd love this recipe - as I do too. Sometimes it just these lovely home-style meals that really hit the spot!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

My husband's mother only bought smooth peanut butter because she liked it despite the fact that her sons liked crunchy and furthermore she never even ate peanut butter. So no you weren't a bad mother at all.

Despite dark meat being moister, I still prefer white and love this recipe with the panko crumbs. Whoever invented panko deserved a medal.

Judy@Savoring Today said...

This recipe has all the right stuff -- buttermilk soak for the chicken, panko bread crumbs, lemon zest -- love, love, love it! I can tell already it is delicious and would become a new favorite. :)

Robin O said...

This is my kind of meal, flavorful and satisfying! I must have been a very terrible mother when my kids were little they loved eating the drumsticks! Grasped in chubby hands and grunting like little cavemen.
That is why chicken has so many pieces parts, something for everyone and prepared this way -- everyone comes away with smile. Delish!

Jill Colonna said...

I'm with you on the Mum worries and love your honesty, Jamie. This is definitely a winner - ages since had panko - and a glass avec is truly a good idea. It's funny. I prefer the white meat and somehow managed to convince the kids they prefer the darker. Hehe.

Sarah said...

That sounds normal to me :-) We hide the cookies from each other and then forget where we put it.

Barb | Creative Culinary said...

Here's to you and me and other good moms who actually do some things just for themselves!

My mom would buy treats for herself and sequester them in the fridge for her children to never touch. Maybe why to this day I still covet Sara Lee Cheesecake? :)

Priscilla - ShesCookin said...

Let them eat white meat! I, too, prefer the moister, more flavorful dark. Love the panopoly (and that word) of flavors, and panko is my crumb of choice - it adds crispy deliciousness to all manner of fish and meats without deep frying!

Ivy said...

I love crusted chicken and was drooling while reading your post (those potatoes deserve more praise as they are so sweet and delicious as they suck up all the flavour). My children eat only white meat and my husband loves the wings so I am lucky that there is always dark meat for me to eat:)

Kate@Diethood said...

I just had a good laugh..thanks, Jamie! My Mom did the same thing - she let us have the white meat only because she preferred the dark meat. :)
I also use panko .. I like the texture way better, and that crunch is to die for! Ok, so, I won't die for it, but it is amazing!! :)

Nuts about food said...

My husband likes the white meat of the chicken and I used to give my kids that part because I love the wings and thighs and drumsticks and it was easier to cut up for them. They are growing so I find myself sharing all the good bits... as much as I hate sharing, I want them to love the good parts and still feel a little frustration when husband prefers the dry, boring white meat to the lusciously tender dark meat. Luckily he is as crazy about the crackly chicken skin as the rest of us (or unluckily?)

Carolyn Jung said...

This is one of my go-to recipes, too. It's such a breeze. And I love how you get crisp chicken without having to fry it.

Lisa said...

I'ma dark meat lover myself and the first thing I grab are BOTH legs. However, I prefer white meat in other preparations such as chicken salad and soups. You're a good Mama, dark meat hoarding or not ;) That said, I've found myself using panko more than even fresh breadcrumbs these days. It's just..just..crispier nd stays crispy much longer. Your chicken looks amazing! xo

lisa is cooking said...

This is perfect comfort food! The mustard in the marinade and the crunchy coating is so great with chicken. When it comes to chicken, I'm happy with light or dark meat. A rare case of me not being too picky!

Mairi @ Toast said...

Perfect! Delivers all the comfort without any of the guilt �� as I cild I always clamoured for the white meat, now unless a buying a whole chicken it is thighs all the way... So much more flavour. And from all accounts Jamie you are a wonderful Mum!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Love this kind of meal. I do not use panko but grind my own bread for the coating. And I have to admit Soeren & i fight for the dark pieces of meat. He never wanted the white pieces always the drumstick ... now that he is older I do not mid nor do I feel guilty fighting him for it ;o) Sometimes I just buy thighs and drumsticks.


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